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From the technical side I consider myself as a good amateur photographer, but what totally bothers me is that I am not creative, on the contrary. Since five years ago when I started with photography as a hobby, I don't think that I have came up with anything original that I would publicize and be proud of. Over the course of exploring photography as a hobby, I have tried more than a few photographic techniques: playing with long exposure shots (traffic, waterfalls, and star trails), landscape HDRs, street photography, light painting, macro, time-lapse and others. I have learned the techniques following online tutorials and managed to reproduce photos in the examples.

But after learning how to shoot, I have realised that I lack the creative component to create something original. Surfing Flickr really makes me depressed: regardless of the technique, people with a lesser equipment have great ideas and create stunning and creative shots leaving me only to follow them. While I would be happy if someone would use a photo of mine for self-education, many of the photos can be considered unique that trying to do something similar can be considered as mimicking and cheesy.

Perhaps I am exaggerating and expecting wonders in a crowded hobby, but anyway, my question here is: is it bad to mimic other photographers to counterbalance one's lack of creative skills? If yes, how to develop creative skills?

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    Relevant: photo.stackexchange.com/q/48464/9161. I understand your problem, however, (for now) I have let go of the idea that I will create something unique that will belong to the top on sites like Flickr or 500px. I just photograph things because I like the process. I don't create photos such that people will like it and I'm fine with that. Also: all the "original" work you see is most probably done in the past (maybe 10-20 years ago), it's only that you haven't seen it. So don't feel bad about it. – Saaru Lindestøkke Mar 15 '14 at 22:55
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    Tells the story of myself too +1 – Sourav Mar 17 '14 at 5:06
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    You just summed up my photography life in this question. And it is so depressing going through 500px and Flickr that I almost don't browse it as often anymore. Let's just keep doing what we do best... Reproduce the results of other people. What's the harm in that as long as we are not taking away their business. – Sudarshan Kadam Mar 18 '14 at 14:45
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It is a good way to learn just how other photographers see, and a great way to get to know your gear to go out a try an make images that look like other photographers work. Many photographers do this (myself included( it's literally impossible to take the same image as someone else. Even in a group of photographers capturing the same scene, everyone will take an image that fit's what they want from the scene in front of them.

To take that one step further, start looking at other photographers work. That in itself will change the way you shoot because you will have been studying and filling your mind with great photography. Remember that technical information can not make art. All the gear in the world can't produce a single story. Stories are told within the frame by artistic means through subject framing and composition. The technical process is frosting on that cake, not the cake itself.

Do a 365. Make an image a day with a certain set of criteria. That will produce both frustration and creativity, so long as you don't quit. (never quit)

When it comes to creativity, remember that you are inherently creative. What you see and why you like it are unique to you. Be comfortable in that truth, then just go for it. Don't try to be creative, just be you. Be the original that you were made to be. Don't worry about originality, because no artist that worries about originality can ever be original, but if you simply try to tell the truth, you become original without any effort.

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    Good answer. I'm always looking for other photographers' images online, on sharing sites like Instagram, flickr and 500px, to get ideas. Starting out recreating their image can open up all sorts of your own creative ideas that can develop into work that is really your own – laurencemadill Mar 16 '14 at 13:42
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    @laurencemadill Internet is one place. Exhibitions, magazines and bookstores is another place to look for inspiring photographs. – dzieciou Dec 18 '16 at 17:16
  • @laurencemadill - If you are interested in photography that includes some photoshop, I'd highly recommend looking at fredmiranda.com. It's a great, friendly community, they run weekly photo assignments for sharing results... all around a great experience for folks looking to exercise their artistic skills. – MrWonderful Mar 23 '17 at 6:20
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You may have heard this quote that is mistakenly attributed to Picasso:

Good artist copy, great artists steal

One way to interpret the first part of this quote is to treat it as a learning journey, that is in order to be good you must learn how other artists accomplish what they do by copying their methods.

We can then expand on this by interpreting the second half of the quote, thus in order to be a great artist you must not simply copy the method, you must steal the essence / idea and make it your own.

Unfortunately no one can tell you how to steal the essence, you must practice and practice and practice always stretching yourself until you achieve it (or give up like so many of us do).

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The question tells the story of myself too ! I am too frustrated like you [after buying a dSLR and expecting that all the images will be superb]. When after switching to dSLR the images was still somewhat same like, I knew I have the problem with the view & it has nothing to do with the camera !

So after viewing a youtube video by Scott Kelby I try this style

Try to photograph any subject multiple times

  • use bracketing as I may like it brighter or darker
  • change angle, tilt the camera
  • go from wide to tele
  • change the level of view, from ground to knee level to standing level

Hope this will help :)

Eventually you will find out what type of camera settings and style goes with the subject you want to shoot.

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/souravghosh/

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    while this seems to be good advice on how to try the style you have been trying, it really doesn't currently answer if it is good or bad to learn creativity by doing this. Do you think you could update your answer to include your thoughts on how it has benefited your creativity and indicating why you think or don't think that this kind of approach works well to develop your creativity? – AJ Henderson Mar 17 '14 at 14:45
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The title of this question is very loaded.

Is it bad to mimic other photographers to compensate the lack of one's creative skills?

The implication is that you are "compensating" for a lack of creativity. That's not a great way to think of it in my opinion.

Let's re-word the question a little.

Is it a good idea to try mimicking other photographers in order to develop your skills?

The answer to which is yes, definitely!

In fact, it's a very good exercise as it forces you to examine what techniques were used to create a certain style, and to try and perfect those techniques.

Great artists learn from artists who went before them. Nobody who is starting out in any artistic pursuit, whether they be Picasso or Beyonce, enters their field in a vacuum. Artists draw influence from others they admire or know. They go through a journey where they try various styles, and their work matures. To hone your skills and develop your style, you observe what others are doing and what you like about it, you try various things, you build on what works and you learn from what doesn't work. Imitating other people's styles is a great learning device and I would say an essential rite of passage in learning to be a better artist.

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There are different ways your creativity can show. It isn't strictly necessary to be able to produce a unique look to be creative as a photographer. Much more important is the ability to understand how to communicate through your images. Your creativity doesn't have to communicate in style what it can communicate in content.

Study the works of other photographers. See how they use the medium to express a meaning beyond the simple visual. How do they capture the emotion and story of their subject?

Learn how to capture the meaning you intend through your photos and then learn to express yourself through it. When you learn to do this, it is likely that your photos will end up taking on a style of their own without having to try because it will be an expression of your personality and way of viewing the world.

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I've read this great advice somewhere (I think it was a book by David duChemin) that has really helped me: shoot what you love. It's one thing to explore all the different types of photography and mimic the others' work to learn the technical side of things. But only when you discover the subject that inspires you you'll be able to create original work. What are you passionate about? People? Birds or animals? Cars? Exotic far away lands? Try to understand what it is, and focus on that. Eventually (not at first) you'll find your own special way to photograph your subject, expressing the way YOU see it and feel about it. And because we're all unique in our passions and the way we see things, your work will be only yours, and not a copy of someone else's. And then you'll discover that other people appreciate your work more, because if you do something that moves you, then you get a chance to move other people as well with your photographs. So shoot what you love! And if you're still figuring out what it is -- by all means, try all the different things and mimic the others' work. It's all a part of the creative growth process.

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I quite like the 'Helsinki Bus Station Theory' to finding your own vision in photography. It's a fun theory and a good read, so would suggest you read it in full (it's not even very long).

Without repeating the article itself though, the basic premise is that you have to start out doing exactly what countless people have done before you. You will go through the same processes, take many photos that are essentially the same as so many before, and for a very long time you will be a 'mainstream photographer' or a 'copycat'.

Eventually you may discover smaller and smaller niches where you are doing something truly novel. But it may take a lifetime of photography to get there. And you'll probably change directions a few times along the way.

So yes, copy good photographers, try out their techniques, copy their concepts, try to change them and make them your own, even try to recreate their images (this can be a good way of learning more about the technical side of photography as well)—but of course don't assume you can sell a photo that's clearly a recreation of another (depending on local laws, you may find your own photo infringes on another's copyright if it's visually very similar).

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Take a read of "Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative". It offers some interesting insights.

The review at Amazon sums it up as:

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.

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